My Life Beyond the Pale Essay

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My Life Beyond the Pale


"Beyond the pale" was a phrase first used by the English Crown of the 1300's to describe the Irish countryside outside of Dublin's borders, i.e., English control. Even before then, and since, the Irish have continually struggled to define for themselves a cohesive national identity outside of that which was determined for them by colonists, or perhaps nowadays, tourists like myself. Therefore, a cautionary note: this brief essay contains no deep, penetrating insights into the Irish psyche, no judgments as to the wisdom of constitutionalized Catholicism, World War II isolationism, or the perpetuation of Yeats-ish, green-rolling, fairy-mounded myths. Irish identity cannot, I believe, be found at the
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Beggars position themselves near the omnipresent ATMs, and Georgian townhouses serve as corporate headquarters for these same banks. Older bars have been gutted to make way for splashy, three-level discotheques that feature bad music night after night, as well as piles of European adolescent girls with bejeweled American flags marching across their chests.


Despite all this I hesitate to characterize Ireland, or even Dublin, as offering an easy-to-swallow coating for any but its most oblivious tourists. There is something there so utterly un-American (not, I should note, anti-American. Unlike many of my friends in London, I never felt shy for my corn-fed, tooth-braced blondness) that it might not defy description, at least not for a better writer. It exists, for example, in words. Despite what appeared to me as the transparency of a shared language, my conversations with Irish acquaintances were at first hesitant, stilted, as though things were lost in translation. Dubliners embrace the shape of their language, how the lips and tongue combine for the drawn-out sounds of "brilliant", "super", and "fabulous". That such effusive words are used seemingly without care gives an indication, I think, as to the loveliness of nearly everyone I met. Hearing someone say "thanks a million" for a 70 p. cup of coffee was always slightly unexpected,

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